Synopses & Reviews
Donald Hall's celebrated book of poems Without was written for his wife, Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995. Hall returns to this powerful territory in The Best Day the Worst Day, a work of prose that is equally "a work of art, love, and generous genius" (Liz Rosenberg, Boston Globe).
Jane Kenyon was nineteen years younger than Donald Hall and a student poet at the University of Michigan when they met. Hall was her teacher. The Best Day the Worst Day is an intimate account of their twenty-three-year marriage, nearly all of it spent in New Hampshire at Eagle Pond Farm of their shared rituals of writing, close attention to pets and gardening, and love in the afternoon. Hall joyfully records Jane's growing power as a poet and the couple's careful accommodations toward each other as writers. This portrait of the inner moods of "the best marriage I know about," as Hall has written, is laid against the stark medical emergency of Jane's leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months. Hall shares with readers as if we were one of the grieving neighbors, friends, and relatives the daily ordeal of Jane's dying, through heartbreaking and generous storytelling.
The Best Day the Worst Day stands alongside Elegy to Iris as a powerful testimony to both loss and love.
"An account of her illness, their life together, and the calming landscape of New England...a gem." USA Today
"A bright, wonderful book." --New York Observer
"A fearful and beautiful history." Boston Globe
"Elegantly and lovingly tells the story of their life together." --Christian Century
"Marriage, art, and illness are all treated with wisdom in Hall's account." New York Sun
"Haunting...The language is spare, clean, very readable." --Poetry
"[The Best Day the Worst Day] aims to show us the sacredness of the everyday, the magical qualities of the circle of life...Hall is such an evocative writer." --Book World The Washington Post
"[A] moving portrait of marriage." The Miami Herald
"Hall has turned his pain into art that can inspire and help others deal with loss." The Oregonian
"Hall portrays the creative, peaceful life [he and Jane Kenyon] carved out for themselves...A moving tribute, unsparingly honest." Kirkus Reviews
"For the reader boiling in triple-digit SoCal heat at the end of the summer, Donald Hall's "The Back Chamber: Poems" arrives like a sudden cloudburst and shower of cooling rain. . .A former U.S. poet laureate, Hall has always had this elemental power — to vividly evoke his particular New England climate and geography so that it can't be mistaken for any other — but what is more unexpected in this new collection of poems, his 16th, is passion."--LA Times "If the poems in it are relatively somber, theyre equally witty, consummately well-crafted." --Booklist, STARRED review "Featuring moving, amusing, musical poems about love, aging, and baseball, this work will have broad appeal and is recommended for all collections."—Library Journal "The former U.S. poet laureate reaches his 20th book in unmistakably honest form..." --Publishers Weekly
"A compelling, sometimes shocking, and certainly deeply moving depiction of bereavement." --Sally Connolly, POETRY
Former Poet Laureate Donald Halland#160;draws fromand#160;his ownand#160;childhood memories in this moving and masterful storyand#160;to give himself the thing he most wanted but didn't get asand#160;a boy: a Christmas at Eagle Pond.
Donald Hall draws on his own childhood memories and gives himself the thing he most wanted but didn't get as a boy: a Christmas at Eagle Pond.
Itandrsquo;s the Christmas season of 1940, and twelve-year-old Donnie takes the train to visit his grandparents' place in rural New Hampshire. Once there, he quickly settles into the farmandrsquo;s routines. In the barn, Gramp milks the cows and entertains his grandson by speaking rhymed pieces, while Donnieandrsquo;s eyes are drawn to an empty stall that houses a graceful, cobwebby sleigh. Now Model A's speed over the wintry roads, which must be plowed, and the beautiful sleigh has become obsolete. When the church pageant is over, the gifts are exchanged, and the remains of the Christmas feast put away, the air becomes heavy with fine snowflakesandmdash;the kind that fall at the start of a big stormandmdash;and everyone wonders, how will Donnie get back to his parents on time?
A candid memoir of love, art, and grief from a celebrated man of letters, United States poet laureate Donald Hall
In an intimate record of his twenty-three-year marriage to poet Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall recounts the rich pleasures and the unforeseen trials of their shared life. The couple made a home at their New England farmhouse, where they rejoiced in rituals of writing, gardening, caring for pets, and connecting with their rural community through friends and church. The Best Day the Worst Day presents a portrait of the inner moods of "the best marriage I know about," as Hall has written, against the stark medical emergency of Jane's leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months. Between recollections of better times, Hall shares with readers the daily ordeal of Jane's dying through heartbreaking but ultimately inspiring storytelling.
Donald Hall's invaluable record of the making of a poet begins with his childhood in Depression-era suburban Connecticut, where as the doted-upon son of dramatically thwarted parents he first realized poetry was "secret, dangerous, wicked, and delicious." Hall eloquently writes of the poetry and books that moved and formed him as a child and young man, and of adolescent efforts at poetry writingan endeavor he wryly describes as more hormonal than artistic. His painful, formative days at Exeter are followed by a poetic self-liberation of sorts at Harvard and in the post-war university scene at Oxford.
After a failed first marriage Hall meets and marries Jane Kenyon, and the two poets return to Eagle Pond. Fittingly, the family home that loomed large in Hall's childhood is where he grows old, and at eighty learns finally "to live in the momentas you have been told to do all your life."
Unpacking the Boxes is a revelatory and tremendously poignant memoir of one man's life in poetry.
Throughout his writing life Donald Hall has garnered numerous accolades and honors, culminating in 2006 with his appointment as poet laureate of the United States. White Apples and the Taste of Stone collects more than two hundred poems from across sixty years of Halls celebrated career, and includes poems recently published in The New Yorker, the American Poetry Review, and the New York Times. It is Halls first selected volume in fifteen years, and the first to include poems from his seminal bestseller Without. Those who have come to love Donald Hall's poetry will welcome this vital and important addition to his body of work. For the uninitiated it is a spectacular introduction to this critically acclaimed and admired poet.
The first, full-length volume of poems in a decade by former poet laureate of the United States Donald Hall
The first full-length volume of poems in a decade by the former poet laureate of the United States
In The Back Chamber, Donald Hall illuminates the evocative, iconic objects of deep memory—a cowbell, a white stone perfectly round, a three-legged milking stool—that serve to foreground the rich meditations on time and mortality that run through his remarkable new collection. While Halls devoted readers will recognize many of his long-standing preoccupations—baseball, the family farm, love, sex, and friendship—what will strike them as new is the fierce, pitiless poignancy he reveals as his own lifes end comes into view. The Back Chamber is far from being death-haunted, but rather is lively, irreverent, erotic, hilarious, ironic, and sly—full of the life-affirming energy that has made Donald Hall one of Americas most popular and enduring poets.
Donald Halls remarkable life in poetry a career capped by his appointment as U.S. poet laureate in 2006 comes alive in this richly detailed, self-revealing memoir.
Halls invaluable record of the making of a poet begins with his childhood in Depression-era suburban Connecticut, where he first realized poetry was secret, dangerous, wicked, and delicious,” and ends with what he calls the planet of antiquity,” a time of life dramatically punctuated by his appointment as poet laureate of the United States.
Hall writes eloquently of the poetry and books that moved and formed him as a child and young man, and of adolescent efforts at poetry writing an endeavor he wryly describes as more hormonal than artistic. His painful formative days at Exeter, where he was sent like a naive lamb to a high WASP academic slaughter, are followed by a poetic self-liberation of sorts at Harvard. Here he rubs elbows with Frank OHara, John Ashbery, and Edward Gorey, and begins lifelong friendships with Robert Bly, Adrienne Rich, and George Plimpton. After Harvard, Hall is off to Oxford, where the high spirits and rampant poetry careerism of the postwar university scene are brilliantly captured.
At eighty, Hall is as painstakingly honest about his failures and low points as a poet, writer, lover, and father as he is about his successes, making Unpacking the Boxes his first book since being named poet laureate both revelatory and tremendously poignant.
White Apples and the Taste of Stone is the definitive lifetime work of an American master -- with a bound-in audio CD of selections read by the author.
One of the most significant poets of his generation, Donald Hall has garnered numerous accolades and honors, including the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. White Apples and the Taste of Stone collects more than two hundred poems from across sixty years of Hall's celebrated career, with new poems recently published in The New Yorker, the American Poetry Review, and the New York Times. Greatly anticipated, this is Hall's first selected volume in fifteen years, and also the first to include poems from his seminal bestseller, Without.
The bound-in audio CD was specially recorded by Hall for this publication -- more than an hour of favorite poems from throughout the book. Hall's distinctive, sonorous voice and inimitable humor provide a perfect companion for fans of his work and for classroom use.
Donald Hall's fourteenth collection opens with an epigraph from the Urdu poet Faiz: "The true subject of poetry is the loss of the beloved." In that poetic tradition, as in THE PAINTED BED, the beloved might be a person or something else - life itself, or the disappearing countryside. Hall's new poems further the themes of love, death, and mourning so powerfully introduced in his WITHOUT (1998), but from the distance of passed time. A long poem, "Daylilies on the Hill 1975 - 1989," moves back to the happy repossession of the poet's old family house and its history - a structure that "persisted against assaults" as its generations of residents could not. These poems are by turns furious and resigned, spirited and despairing - "mania is melancholy reversed," as Hall writes in another long poem, "Kill the Day." In this book's fourth and final section, "Ardor," the poet moves toward acceptance of new life in old age; eros reemerges.
This original paperback brings together for the first time all of Donald Halland#8217;s writing on Eagle Pond Farm, his ancestral home in New Hampshire, where he visited his grandparents as a young boy and then lived with his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, until her death. It includes the entire, previously published Seasons at Eagle Pond and Here at Eagle Pond; the poem and#147;Daylilies on the Hilland#8221; from The Painted Bed; and several uncollected pieces. In these tender essays, Hall tells of the joys and quiddities of life on the farm, the pleasures and discomforts of a world in which the year has four seasons -- maple sugar, blackfly, Red Sox, and winter. Lyrical, comic, and elegaic, they sing of a landscape and culture that are disappearing under the assault of change.
You might expect the fact of dying--the dying of a beloved wife and fellow poet--to make for a bleak and lonely tale. But Donald Hall's poignant and courageous poetry, facing that dread fact, involves us all: the magnificent, humorous, and gifted woman, Jane Kenyon, who suffered and died; the doctors and nurses who tried but failed to save her; the neighbors, friends, and relatives who grieved for her; the husband who sat by her while she lived and afterward sat in their house alone with his pain, self-pity, and fury; and those of us who till now had nothing to do with it. As Donald Hall writes, "Remembered happiness is agony; so is remembered agony." Without will touch every feeling reader, for everyone has suffered loss and requires the fellowship of elegy. In the earth's oldest poem, when Gilgamesh howls of the death of Enkidu, a grieving reader of our own time may feel a kinship, across the abyss of four thousand years, with a Sumerian king. In Without Donald Hall speaks to us all of grief, as a poet lamenting the death of a poet, as a husband mourning the loss of a wife. Without is Hall's greatest and most honorable achievement -- his give and testimony, his lament and his celebration of loss and of love.
Donald Hall's poignant and courageous poetry speaks of the death of the magnificent, humorous, and gifted Jane Kenyon. Hall speaks to us all of grief, as a poet lamenting the death of a poet, as a husband mourning the loss of a wife. Without is Hall's greatest and most honorable achievement-his gift and testimony, his lament and his celebration of loss and of love.
This volume contains the finest short poetry Donald Hall has written, poems of landscape and love, of dedication and prophecy, poems that have won thousands of readers, as well as various prizes and honors.
For nearly forty years, Donald Hall has stood in the front rank of American poets. The title poem, an autobiographical sequence, takes Hall from his boyhood to his growing acquaintance with poets--seniors like Robert Frost and contemporaries like Robert Bly. It sees him growing into manhood, fatherhood, grandfatherhood, and a happy second marriage. When his life inevitably moves into vicissitude, even tragedy, he will tell the dreadful truth about himself and the challenges of his time on earth.
About the Author
DONALD HALL, who served as poet laureate of the United States from 2006 to 2007, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, awarded by the president.
Caldecott Medalist Mary Azarian is a consummate gardener and a skilled and original woodblock artist. Many of her prints are heavily influenced by her love of gardening, and her turn-of-the-century farmhouse is surrounded by gardens that reveal an artist's vision. Mary Azarian received the 1999 Caldecott Medal for SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. She lives, skis, and gardens in Vermont.
Table of Contents
1. Early Poems Old Home Day · 3 Love Is Like Sounds · 3 Wedding Party · 3 Exile · 4 Exile (1968) · 7 Elegy for Wesley Wells · 8 My Son My Executioner · 10 The Sleeping Giant · 11 Je Suis une Table · 11 Dancers · 12 By the Exeter River · 13 T.R. · 14 The Hole · 14 Religious Articles · 15 The Foundations of American Industry · 16 Cops and Robbers · 17 Sestina · 18 Waiting on the Corners · 19 Marats Death” · 20 The Kiss” · 21 Between the Clock and the Bed” · 22 Christ Church Meadows, Oxford · 22 Christmas Eve in Whitneyville · 23
2. The Musk Ox The Long River · 29 The Snow · 29 The Farm · 31 The Moon · 32 The Child · 33 The Poem · 34 Wells · 34 An Airstrip in England, 1960 · 35 New Hampshire · 35 Self-Portrait as a Bear · 36 Orange Knee Socks · 36 Sleeping · 37 King and Queen” · 38 Reclining Figure” · 38 Digging · 39 The Pilot of 1918 · 40 Letter to an English Poet · 40 Stump · 42 In the Kitchen of the Old House · 45 The Days · 46 Swan · 47 The Man in the Dead Machine · 49
3. I Am the Fox The Alligator Bride · 53 Sew · 54 The Coal Fire · 55 The Blue Wing · 55 Woolworths · 56 The Repeated Shapes · 57 Crewcuts · 58 Tall Women · 59 The Table · 60 Mount Kearsarge · 61 The Young Watch Us · 62 Gold · 62 Waters · 63 Nose · 64 Stones · 64 The Dump · 65 The High Pasture · 65 The Green Shelf · 66 Adultery at Forty · 67 To a Waterfowl · 67 Fete · 68 Eleanors Letters · 69 The Raisin · 70 The Town of Hill · 71 White Apples · 72
4. Root Cellar Maple Syrup · 75 The Toy Bone · 77 O Cheese · 78 Kicking the Leaves · 79 Eating the Pig · 82 Wolf Knife · 86 On Reaching the Age of Two Hundred · 89 The Flies · 90 Ox Cart Man · 94 Stone Walls · 95 Old Roses · 99 Traffic · 100
5. Lady Ghost The Black-Faced Sheep · 105 Names of Horses · 107 Great Day in the Cows House · 109 The Henyard Round · 112 New Animals · 114 Scenic View · 115 Old Timers Day · 115 The Baseball Players · 116 Granite and Grass · 117 A Sister on the Tracks · 118 A Sister by the Pond · 120 The Day I Was Older · 124 For an Exchange of Rings · 125 The Impossible Marriage · 126 Mr. Wakeville on Interstate 90 · 127 My Friend Felix · 128 Merle Bascoms .22 · 129 Cider 5? a Glass · 131 Oliver at Thirteen · 136 Edwards Anecdote · 137
6. The One Day Shrubs Burnt Away · 143 Four Classic Texts · 156 To Build a House · 169
7. The Height and House of Desire Tubes · 181 Moon Clock · 183 Carol · 183 Persistence of 1937 · 184 Six Naps in One Day · 184 The Coffee Cup · 185 This Poem · 186 Praise for Death · 189 Speeches · 196 The Night of the Day · 200 Another Elegy · 208
8. Baseball The First Inning · 217 The Second Inning · 219 The Third Inning · 222 The Fourth Inning · 224 The Fifth Inning · 227 The Sixth Inning · 230 The Seventh Inning · 232 The Eighth Inning · 235 The Ninth Inning · 237
9. The Museum of Clear Ideas Decius Whose Guileful · 243 Weve Come to Expect · 244 Let Engine Cowling · 246 Winters Asperity Mollifi es · 247 Whos This Fellow · 249 Im Not Up to It · 249 Let Many Bad Poets · 250 In the Name Of · 252 Mount Kearsarge Shines · 252 Camilla, Never Ask · 253 The Times Are Propitious · 254 Drusilla Informs · 256 Ship of State, Hightide · 257 When the Young Husband · 258 Old Woman Whom I · 260 When the Fine Days · 261 When I Was Young · 262 Flaccus, Drive Up · 263 Let Us Meditate the Virtue · 263 We Explore Griefs · 264 I Suppose Youve Noticed · 265 Sabina Who Explored · 266 Go Write a Poem · 267 Nunc Est Bibendum · 268 I, Too, Dislike · 269
10. Extra Innings The Tenth Inning · 273 The Eleventh Inning · 276 The Twelfth Inning · 280 The Thirteenth Inning · 284
11. The Old Life Spring Glen Grammar School · 295 The Hard Man · 297 Venetian Nights · 298 Blue · 299 My Aunt Liz · 299 Screenplay · 300 The Profession · 301 Edit · 302 The Girlfriend · 303 The Giant Broom · 303 Mr. Eliot · 304 Le Jazz · 305 Just Married · 306 Dread · 307 The Fragments · 307 Fame · 308 Forty Years · 309 What Counts · 310 Moon Shot · 311 7? · 312 Elbows · 312 The Wedding Couple · 313 Rain · 314 Beans and Franks · 314 Revisions · 315 Routine · 316
12. ALL Her Long Illness · 319 Barber · 331 The Porcelain Couple · 332 The Ship Pounding · 333 Folding Chair · 334 Her Intent · 335 Without · 335 After Life · 337 Retriever · 341 The Painted Bed · 342
13. Letters Without Addresses Letter with No Address · 345 Midsummer Lettter · 348 Letter in Autumn · 352 Letter at Christmas · 355 Letter in the New Year · 359 Midwinter Letter · 363 Letter after a Year · 366
14. Throwing Away Weeds and Peonies · 373 After Homer · 374 Her Garden · 374 Summer Kitchen · 375 Wool Squares · 375 Pond Afternoons · 376 Hours Hours · 377 The Wish · 377 Another Christmas · 378 Sweater · 379 Distressed Haiku · 380 Throwing the Things Away · 381 The Perfect Lifffffe · 383 Deathwork · 384 Ardor · 385 Kill the Day · 386 Razor · 391 Conversations Afterplay · 392 Charity and Dominion · 393 Sun · 394 Villanelle · 394 Love Poem · 395 Affirmation · 395
15. Recent Poems Secrets · 399 The Angels · 400 The Master · 401 Surveyor and Surface · 401 North South · 402 The Mysteries · 404 Olives · 405 After Horace · 406 Tea · 407 Safe Sex · 407 Tennis Ball · 408 1943 · 409 Usage · 409 White Clapboard · 410 Witnesss House · 410 Gospel · 412 We Bring Democracy to the Fish · 413 Fishing for Cats, 1944 · 413 The Hunkering · 414
Note · 416 Index of Titles and First Lines · 417